Akshaya Vatam

Akshaya Vatam
Akshaya Vatam

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Kashi Yatra

                                 Kasi Yaththirai
When we hear the word Kasi Yathirai, we remember a bridegroom with his brother in law holding an umbrella over his head and the father in law requesting him to come and marry his daughter with two coconuts in hand. . The explanation given to this ritual is a man cannot perform the rituals for his ancestors in Kashi unless  his wife accompanies him  and that is why symbolically he asked to get married before he gets  the necessity  to proceed  towards Kashi .Kashi yatra   begins with   collection of  sand from the sea shore of Rameswaram  , dissolving the sand at Thriveni sangamam  and ends  with   Abishekam of Ramantha Swamy in Rameswaram with  Ganga water brought from Sangam  and performance  Ganga Samardhanai after you return home.
First Stop- Rameswaram.
 It is a small town with the people depending on the temple and the sea for livelihood. The rituals one should perform here are as follows ( Of course, these are for people who have lost at least one of the parents)
1.     Sankalpam – Sankalpam is performed for commencing the journey by drawing a bow like structure on the sand with turmeric powder and do pooja praying that the journey and the rituals should be performed   without any hitches.
2.     Samudra Snanam- Husband and wife should  take  dips in the sea water and collect  sand .
3.     Hiranya Srardam –After taking bath in the sea hiranya srardham is performed   with 5 brahmin pandits. But instead of cooked rice “Pindams” are made with wet raw rice.
4.     Madhava Pooja - The sand collected is divided into three portions and named a) Sri. Veni Madhava b) Shri Bindhu Madhava c) Shri Sethu Madhava. Pooja is done for all the Madhavas . Sethu madhavar is immersed in the sea . Other 2 Madhavas accompany us on our journey to Prayg and Kashi.
5.     Theertha Snanam –  Ramanatha Swamy Koil prakaram has 33 wells . which are considered auspicious for bath.  There are many people waiting to take out water from the wells and pour it on you. We need to pay only 15 to 20 Rs  for their services
6.     Sight seeing- Since we have a train to Chennai only in the evening   and if you have time,   an auto can be hired  to go sight seeing. Kodanda Ramaswamy temple  in Dhanushkodi, Rama theertham ,Seetha Theertham, Lakshmana Theertham, a temple with stones that are supposed to be used for”  Sethu Bhandanma” ( Here the stones are seen floating in  water and there are pictures of the  arial view of the Sethu or bridge built by Lord Ram taken by NASA )  are places worth seeing.

Second Stop- Prayag or Allahabad
There is a saying “ Prayagai mundanam, Kasi  Dhandanam, Gaya Pindanam”.So those who go to Prayg are to cut atleast a strand of their hair. In Prayag  Shiv Mutt pandits make all the arrangements for the rituals to be performed. The rituals to be performed here as follows:
     1. Sangalpam – First of all you have to perform a sangalpam . Then the ladies have to seek  permission  from their husbands and the Sumagalis to cut their hair. Then a pooja  has to be performed for the sand brought from Rameswaram. ( A request from the pandit in the Shiv Mutt “ Don’t address this as sand, you have memed it Veni Madhav and brought him all the way from Rameswaram. Refer to hin  as Veni Madhav. )He also requests not to bring  Veni Madhav in plastic bags as plastic is banned in Ganges. Another  suggestion. If you are not going to Prayag  immediately after Rameswaram open   the bag and dry the sand , sorry, Veni Madhav in sun . Otherwise it  will start emitting a bad smell.
 2. Veni Dhanam – We have to carry a blouse piece, comb, mirror ,kumkum pack in a  muram and go to Thiriveni sangamam by boat. Local Pandas come to the boat and recite some Mantras and the husband has to comb and plait his wife’s hair and cut a   small bit from the end. After arriving at thiriveni sangamam wife puts the hair along with turmeric powder and kumkum in the river. It is surprising that haldi kumkum floats, whereas the hair sinks . Then the husband and wife bathe in the sangam and immerses Veni Madhav in the water. Pure water from Ganga should be collected in a can before it merges with Yamuna.
3. Tharpanam –After coming back to Shiv Mutt a tharpanam must be performed.  Cook in the kitchen keeps the cooked rice ready and 17 pindams or riceballs are to be made out of this rice. Before that  the water brought from the Ganges can be given to a shop opposite Shiv Mutt so that they pack the water in small copper sombus .One thing to remember. The water  for Abishekam to Ramanathga swamy should be atleat half a liter. If we order  in advance  Shiv Mutt provides food  at a cost of Rs 50 per head.

3rd Stop: Kasi or Varanasi
The city is caleed  Varanasi  because here the two rivers namely Varuna and Assi converge. The  Pandits  in Kasi make all the arrangements for the whole yatra . We contacted Shri. mahadeva Ganapatigal ( mobile no- 099849 61599). He performs the rituals for people  of  all the Vedas. If we inform in advance, he arranges for a pickup  in  Allahabad station ,take us to Shiv Mutt, arrange for all the rituals ,and bring us to Kashi in the same taxi. Another thing, all the items to be given as Dhanam can be procured by us or Ghanapatikal  can be entrusted with this task. When we performed this ritual about 40 pandits were arranged to receive Dhanam of articles like gold coin, silver tumbler, Rudraksham, book, veshti, brass cups etc. After giving away the Dhanams you  are to perform a Sradham. According to your convenience it can be Hiranya Srardham or full fledged srardham . But  menu is not per as our house hold customs. Cocunut, chillies and tomatoes are included. Only 3 Bakshanams are made namely Vadai, Appam and Ellurundai. One surprising thing is there are no crows in Varanasi. Pindams are fed to the cows.
                               After finishing the day’s rituals an auto can be hired to go around the temples in Varanasi. One word of advise. Cameras, cell phones and big handbags are not allowed   inside the Viswanathar temple. So better leave them in the place where you stay. Visvanathar temple, Visalakshi temple and Annapoorani temple are all in small bylanes. Other than these 3 main temples Kalabairava temple( here Black threads  called Kasi kayiru are placed in the deity’s feet and given to us) Dhandapani Bhairav temple( here the pandit strokes our back 3 times with a stick implying that the deity is pardoning all our sins after giving a punishment) Sozhi matha temple(This godess is considered to be the sister of Lord Visvanath and seems to have come from South India. Her main meal is Sozhis . We can buy them and give  them as an offering)Sankat mochan Hanumar temple  , the place where Thulasidas  first read out  his creation “ Ramcharita manas” are places worth seeing. Saranath, the place where Lord Buddha gave out his first sermon is also a place not to be missed.
Fourth Stop –Gaya
Even in the beginning of this narrative  the importance of Pindams in Gaya was mentioned. Even if we think that we ought to go to Kasi and Gaya  they say that our ancestors come and wait for our arrival. We started from Varansai around and reached Karnataka Bhavan in Gaya by . A cook accompanied us with  all the required things for feeding the gaya Barahmins after the Srardham. All arrangements were made by Karnataka Bhavan . First we were taken to the Phalguni river. We cannot say it is a river  because we don’t see even a drop of water in the surface, only heaps of sand. There is a tale behind this. Lord Ram came  with Sita to Gaya to perform “Pindadhanam “ for his father. He went into the forest for collecting  all the stuff needed for this. Meanwhile Dhasharatha appeared in front of Sita and told her that he is very hungry and need food immediately. Sita was sitting by the river side and immediately she made pindams out of the sand in the river bed and fed her Father-in-Law. Satisfied Dhasharatha blesses her and leaves. Lord Rama  after returning from the forest prepares  for the ritual and invokes his father. Dhasharatha appears in front of him and says Sita has already fed him and he is not hungry. Lord Ram is puzzled and asks Sita to produce some witnesses for having given pindams to his father. Sita first calls the river as a witness  but Phalguni  thinking that her statement may cause a rift between Ram and Sita says she has not seen anything. Next Sita calls a cow, a Thulasi plant ,and a brahmin as witnesses. But all of them reply in the negative. Finally Sita calls the “Aala maram “ and the tree vouches for Sita giving Pindam for her  father-in-law. Sita curses Phalguni that  water will never flow in her , Thulasi plant that it may grow  even in dirt, cows that they may lose their tongue and finally the gaya Brahmin that he will never be satisfied with the food he gets . She was very happy that tha Aalamaram spoke the truth and gives a boon that it will continue to flourish  eternally . So it is called” Akshaya vatam” here.
                           We are asked to fetch water from the pit dug in the river and with that water asked to cook two bowls of rice. The pandit recites tha mantras for Tharpanam . Out of the two bowls of cooked rice  17 and 64 rice  ballas are made respectively(One who has his mother alive need to make only 48 pindams)and out of the  17 pindams  we keep 12 on bed of “Dharbai” for our direct ancestors for 3 generations both on father’s and mother’s side, one for “ karunika Pithrus” and four for those who have died without children, water and food. Then we proceed to  “Vishnu Padam temple .There out of the remaining 64 pindams, 16 are exclusively for one’s mother remembering what all hardships she underwent for the child’s birth and the rest are for all those who have died  among relatives, in-laws, friends etc. Even the servants and pet animals we had are remembered and given “ pindams” All the pindams are submitted in “ The Vishnu Padam” . Vishnu Padams made of copper are available for sale in  shops near this temple. We can buy them and those who have the practice of “ Vishnu Ilai”  while performing Srardham can keep these “Padams” in front of the Banana leaf
 Then we returned to Karnataka Bhavan and did full fledged “Srardham” The menu for the Brahmins are Puri, vegetables sambar, rasam  buttermilk, payasam and vadai. .After performing the “Srardham” again we have to prepare 17 and 64 /48 pindams and take them to “Akshaya vatam” or the aalamaram which got the boon of eternity from “Sita”There after “Pinda pradanam “ we have to sacrifice a vegetable, a fruit and a leaf( By default this leaf is always “Aalilai) Vegetable and fruit are as per one’s wish. Finally a gaya barahmin is called and asked whether he is satisfied by the rituals we have done. When he replies in the affirmative all the pindams are put on the base of the tree. It is better to keep sufficient  coins  and currency as the beggars keep chasing us. It was around when we returned to Kashi.

 5 th stop – Again Kashi
Morning we get up and go to the river to take bath. Then we get into the boat in which a furnace is kept ready.  The lady is to cook a small amount of rice to be made into 17 pindams . After making them she has to cook the rice for the next ghat . The husband performs  tharpanam and submits the pindams to his ancestors and  puts them in the river. By this time the boat arrives in the next ghat. Here both husband and wife takes bath , get into the boat and repeat the rituals. In this way all the 5 ghats ( Assi Ghat, Dasaswametha Ghat, ManiKarnika Ghat,  panch Ganaga Ghat, Thrilochana Ghat are covered and it takes about 3 hours. Then we return with a brass pot of Ganga water. After return we perform “ Dampathi Pooja” wherein an elderly couple are worshipped as Lord Visvanath and visalakshi. Dhoti set, 9 yards saree, blouse piece, mirror, comb,  manjal kungumam and a mangalyam are given to them. After performing the pooja , we have to seek their blessings. Next comes Ganga Samaradhanai. The water brought from the river is worshiped and with feeding 4 pundits in “ Kala Bhairva Samaradhanai” the rituals in Kashi come to an end. We spent an amount of Rs 20,000 towards all the rituals performed in Prayag, Kasi, Gaya including the materials for Dhanams and Dampathi Pooja..
                    Performing Abishekam for Ramanathswamy in Rameswaram with Ganga jalam is the next step. After returning home performing a Ganga Samaradhanai is a must. With that the yatra comes to an end.